Archive for August, 2011

Irene Calls

August 29, 2011

Irene is a metaphor for all the churning going on in our heads, all the changes and choices we are daily presented with. Sometimes, it’s difficult to decide what to focus on once homes and communities are restored: storm recovery, high tension wires, genetically modified food, hormones in our milk and meat, mercury in our fish, education, employment, and retirement all jockey for our attention.

 At the same time, storms like Irene energize us. People watched the water soaring high over the Mad River’s Campton Dam, whether on TV or in the crowd standing in full view of the dam. There was an urge to get out and experience that energy. I watched the Pemi rush to expand on either side of the Cross Road Bridge in Thornton, flooding a wide swath of land with rich silt.

 Nature’s housekeeping sometimes seems a bit too thorough, depending on how much it extracts from us in the aftermath and the painful loss of life that is so swift and difficult to understand. People can immediately discount damaged of lost homes or vehicles when, “At least, everyone is OK,” or “No one was hurt.”

 In the calm after the storm, hopefully our relief at surviving the unknowns will bring fresh energy to act on all the ways we can think of to keep each other well. We have a clear, sunny day to begin again.

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Is It Time to Round Up Roundup?

August 22, 2011

On 8/12/11, Carey Gillam (Reuters) quoted Bob Kremer, a microbiologist with the US Dept. of Agriculture. Kremer said that repeated use of the chemical glyphosate, which is the key ingredient of Roundup herbicide, effects plant roots and may be causing fungal root disease. He further noted that weed resistance is also evident and the genetically modified plants (GMOs) don’t yield more than conventional crops, likely due to root disease problems.

 Other researchers raise possible links between glyphosate and cancer, miscarriages, and other health problems in people and livestock. However, neither the USDA  nor the Environmental Protection Agency appear interested in researching areas of safety and health relative to Roundup use.

 It behooves us to pay attention to the cracks in the GMO approach for global food security.

 First, a little history of the use of our land-grant college system: Originally, state colleges were federally funded for  scientific research to aid farmers and feed millions of Americans. Researchers constructively criticized each other and shared ideas openly. What they learned remained in the public domain; it made the news.

 Then, federal funds were cut drastically to land-grant colleges. Here was an opening for corporations to step in and fund research, and they did. But their funds have strings attached. Corporations decide what topics scientists may research, when they can do it, and by whom the results are approved before publication.

 In 1980, the Supreme court decided that Terminator genes could be patented just as if they were a new machine or toy. This gave public universities the incentive to create marketable products. It also put an end to open sharing of ideas and keeping the public informed in the competition to come up with new gene patents.

 Corporations began donating buildings and faculty positions to universities. At Texas A&M, there is a DOW Chemical Prof. of Biological and Agricultural Engineering position. At Iowa State, Monsanto funded an auditorium that bears its name, as well as the Monsanto Graduate Fellowships. The fellowships focus special emphasis on seed policy for the protection of intellectual property rights. Hello private profit, goodbye public domain.

 In other words, there won’t be money to study non-GMOs. There won’t be money to study adverse health effects of GMO foods. Such results would never be approved by scientists paid by corporations to discredit negative findings. There won’t be money to compare crop yields and cost comparisons over time.

 The university funding list is long and alarming when you consider that Senators Lugar and Casey tried to promote a Global Food Security Act (S. 384) through congress that would provide billions of federal research funds ONLY for GMO research.

 Over 100 scientific organizations petitioned to oppose S. 384 until the bill is made technology-neutral. The bill was not passed but we all need to be on the alert for future strategies. Funding for agricultural research remains compromised.

 With Farmers Markets in full swing, now is a great time to check out how much GMO food we consume. Is it time to round up the Roundup before more problems are created?  The more we question, the sooner we’ll have more reliable choices to keep each other well.

Fox Wisdom and Corporate Greed

August 14, 2011

Driving down Route 3 one morning, well ahead of me, a red fox sprang out of the brush, leaped over a pile of stones, and floated across the road, barely touching ground before leaping over a stone wall and on into safe woods.

 I marveled at its lithe body, well oiled joints, synchronized strength, rich color, high energy, and clarity of movement. And I thought, Yes! those are the qualities most of us would like to have: to be sure of our direction, alert, and ready for whatever life presents.

 We humans seem to have roadblocks that get in the way of developing such qualities.

 We worry about corporate greed and its web in every direction. This week, the dairy industry was helped by the L.A. Sherriff’s office, the CDC and the FDA to squelch raw milk producers and people who want to raise grass fed cows; another week, it’s Montsanto vs. seed savers; yet another week, it’s high voltage towers vs. underground and alternative sources of energy, and the list goes on.

 Let’s just look at two of the obstacles confronting us. First is the private buyer’s club in California that contracted with dairy farmers to raise grass fed cattle and provide members with raw milk products. Because it is illegal to sell raw milk in CA, their private club was vandalized by L.A. police at gunpoint and produce was willfully destroyed. Yet the private buyer’s club wasn’t selling anything to the public.

 What is overlooked in such reports is the WHY behind people’s choice for raw milk products and grass fed cattle.

 Today lactose intolerance affects 25% of Americans. In the early 1900s, poor sanitation in collecting and distributing milk caused serious bacterial outbreaks. Pasteurization was hailed as the magic cure (and it was!) because it killed harmful bacteria. It also killed the lactase and other enzymes that make milk digestible. Without lactase, many people, especially children who are introduced to pasteurized cow’s milk too soon, are unable to digest milk and become lactose intolerant. Today’s sanitary measures eliminate the need for pasteurization. However, because corporate cows are injected with hormones to boost milk production, they regularly develop mastitis (infected udders), their milk is infected and needs pasteurization.

 Homogenized milk was also patented around 1900 so that the cream wouldn’t separate out and have to be shaken up every time milk was poured. The problem here is that before milk was homogenized, the cream molecule was so large, it wouldn’t pass through the wall of the human small intestine to be absorbed by the body. It just moved on out as waste. For years, we had a choice and most of us drank pasteurized milk.  By the 1960s, it became difficult to buy anything but homogenized milk.

With homogenization, milk is spun to break up the fat molecule to such tiny particles that they ALL can be easily absorbed through the intestinal wall and contribute to today’s obesity problem. Much research warning us of the potential for plaque lined arteries and obesity was discredited. Today, we just need to look around to see that the research was right on.

 By pasteurizing and homogenizing milk, with additives, it has a much longer shelf  life. There is no need to use it within 3 days; it can sit for weeks on the shelf with few people aware that much of its vitality has been destroyed. We pay pretty heavy dues for such corporate profit.

 Yet, we rarely find anything in the news about the dark side of dairy regulations.

 Another obstacle to keeping each other well is finding the results of reliable research. Every time researchers have found that electromagnetic frequencies produced some kind of cellular change that effects health, corporate industry has hired professional scientists to discredit it with false claims and the ever-present cry for more research. Labs are destroyed, honest research is monkeyed with, brilliant researchers lose their positions, and we all suffer the consequences. We can only hope that EMFs don’t end up like homogenized milk and corn fed produce.

 In our zeal to claim robust health, we need to balance our protests by taking time each day to nourish ourselves. We need to appreciate the mountain grandeur around us, and the caring acts we observe and generate. We need to confidently claim our health with continued respect for all whose paths we cross, lest we be consumed by our frustration.

 The fox picks and chooses its way, ever alert to recognize opportunity or need for caution. We could learn something from that fox.

Northern Pass AC-DC Question

August 8, 2011

Europe runs on HVDC (high voltage direct current) lines, which are reputed to cause less harm than HVAC (alternating, oscillating current) here in the US.

 With HVAC, according to Susan Schibanoff, editor of the BuryNorthernPass blog, “the oscillation ‘throws off’ more EMF (electromagnetic frequency) than direct current. The fear is: what happens when AC and DC lines run in close proximity (as in NP towers). Is there an augmentation effect?”

 The fact that we don’t know, “what happens when,” is a wake up call to us to do our homework on this issue before any project is started. Significantly, the Myth and Fact Section of NP flyers doesn’t mention health risks. The Proposed Northern Pass Project cannot tell us that the pass is not harmful to our health.

  In Europe, there are laws in place governing high voltage lines. In Spain, they are prohibited near residential areas and achools. In Sweden, there are no houses within 330’ of lines and no schools near power lines. In the UK, homes have to be built 450’ from overhead lines. The proposed NP route passes several NH schools in close proximity.

 Before we even consider a putting in such a line, these parameters need to be in place in New Hampshire. We can’t afford to think about keeping well as an individual choice; if we want to be well, we need to do all we can collectively to make certain that we keep each other well.